Sleater-Kinney/Mercury Lounge/March 2, 2005
I have to wonder if all this noise about the new Sleater-Kinney record being loud is really just another subconscious battle of the sexes?
I have The Woods, S-K’s latest, and no doubt it does sound different than their previous stuff. There’s lots of fuzzy bass sounds and rolling psychedelic riffing, but when people say that it’s loud, what do they really mean?
Call the Doctor was loud. Dig Me Out was loud. Hot Rock was loud. All Hands on the Bad One was loud. One Beat was loud. Shit, they are all loud. But loud in a different way. Those previous records featured Corin Tucker’s high vocal shrieking and Carrie Brownstein’s serrated guitar leads. Now, with The Woods, it’s a darker loud, a deeper loud, a meandering loud.
Could people be confusing “loud” with “masculine?” The previous records were loud in an unmistakably feminine, soprano-seeking way. This is a band without a bass player, remember. But this record reaches for the bass. Skuzzy, boy bathroom bass. Corin still keeps up a pitch that’s on top of a mountain, but the music is running down the hill away from it. This is a new dissonance. The new loud.
It was great to hear the just birthed songs unleashed in the relative small environs of the Mercury Lounge. They played most of the The Woods. I’ve seen the band about 15 times in my life, so I can say some certainty that the wacky, dramatic faces Carrie made while singing were entirely new. If she sang the word “crazy” she’d pull this complete lunatic pose. It was sort of punk rock kabuki. Corin is becoming more and more a lush earth mama. During some of the noodling songs, she had her eyes shut and bowed her head just so; for a split second, she almost looked like a hippie…not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Not all of the newer songs trail in the footsteps of Big Brother & The Holding Company. Some have an airy 1970s AM radio feel, like “Modern Girl” which has this bright chorus that goes “My whole life is like a picture of a sunny day.” At first listen, "Modern Girl" sounds like a happy song until you unpack the lyrics and you realize that, duh, if your life is like a picture of a sunny day, well, it’s not officially sunny. They played that song. They also played one of the better songs from The Woods called “Jumpers,” which for some reason reminds me of a Mirah jam---jabs of harmony, brisk singing, marching beat. It sounded really strong live, their voices turning grapes into jelly.
The night ended with an encore of the old favorite You’re No Rock-n-Roll Fun, which I mentally dedicated to my favorite unofficially straight-edged blog partner, one Amy Phillips.
Oh yeah, the band before them, Pela, was mostly unremarkable except for this one lyric of theirs that struck me as outrageously poetic: "You have a fragile face in a public place."